Comics fans have been waiting on this film with baited breath for years. The Watchmen adaptation had been called “unfilmable” by many, and had passed through the hands of many different directors and screenwriters before landing on the desk of 300 director Zack Snyder.
I must admit, I was definitely one of those in the camp of dreading a film version of Watchmen. The story is so dense, and bluntly, we’ve seen what studios can do to wreck films before (Spider-Man 3’s villain overload for example). Snyder himself has admitted that when he first took the project, the script he was handed was PG-13 rated, and designed for a sequel.
Snyder wisely binned it, insisted on an R/18 certificate script and has proceeded to do what I thought would be impossible. A faithful adaptation of the story. The job he’s done here is nothing short of superb. The cuts and changes made to bring the story to the screen felt perfectly judged to me (even the much-talked about change to the ending). To be honest, while this isn’t a short film, coming in at about 2hours 45 minutes, to me the length felt just right. Any shorter and I doubt they’d have done the story justice. However, any longer and I feel it would’ve been bloated and dragged. While the extra detail works in the trade, on screen I just think it would bog it down.
Special mention must go to the cast. The Comedian and Rorschach especially feel like they’ve been ripped straight from the pages of the comic. Visually they’re absolutely spot-on. In fact it really must be said that Jackie Earle Haley probably steals the film as Rorschach. He does an outstanding job as the character. Meanwhile Patrick Wilson captures the character of Daniel (Nite Owl) well and his growing relationship with Malin Akerman’s Laurie (Silk Spectre) is played well and I found it quite believable, forming the emotional heart of the piece while Rorschach is dealing with the murder/mystery and John goes into self-imposed exile.
Its not a perfect adaptation. Some decisions didn’t quite work for me (Dan and Laurie killing the thugs in the alley for example lept out as ill-judged, and Doctor Manhatten wasn’t really shown as gradually getting more distant from humanity, he just kind of started out that way), however these were minor things compared to how right the rest of it felt.
Despite my initial fears for this film, I left the cinema very happy indeed. I still have a slight fear as to how well the film will perform. I’m not sure how the general cinema-going public will react to the film, as its definitely not the usual superhero fare they might be expecting. But at least for the rest of us, we’ve got a movie version of Watchmen we can be happy with.